Piñata: A Novel by Leopoldo Gout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pinata is a recently released, spooky, toe-curling and thought-provoking Possession Horror story from the mind of Leopoldo Gout.
My initial attraction was to the cover. I mean, look at it!
Then I read the synopsis and knew it was something I wanted to pick up as soon as possible. I’m so happy I did.
In this story we follow single-mom, Carmen, and her two daughters, Izel and Luna. Carmen works for a prestigious New York design firm, who have projects all over the globe. Carmen has been assigned the role of site manager for a renovation project in Tulancingo, a city in the Mexican state of Hildago.
Specifically, the project is the renovation of an ancient abbey into a modern hotel, while trying to adhere to the original beauty of the space. A project Carmen is passionate about.
Carmen is excited for the project for a number of reasons. It’s a challenging renovation and a big step-up in responsibility for Carmen. Additionally, she gets to bring her daughters, so it’s a chance for them to be exposed to the culture of their ancestors.
As they move into their little rental, Carmen is excited with the possibilities the summer holds for them. There’s trepidation too, of course, it’s a city after all and the girls will be home alone during the day while she is working.
With this in mind, Carmen does set up some ground rules for the girls. They know not to leave the house on their own, or to open the door to strangers.
We follow Carmen as she deals with the girls, the local workers and the stress of her job. We also see how the girls are adjusting to their new environment and we meet a few of the local characters with ties to the abbey and its history.
On a day that the girls visit Carmen at work an accident occurs, which ends up exposing a hidden tomb packed full of mysterious, ancient artifacts. Unfortunately, that incident changes everything for Carmen and her girls.
Although her employer doesn’t necessarily blame Carmen for the accident, they need to pull her from the project, for optics, thus cutting Carmen and the girls’ trip short.
As they return to New York, Carmen’s concerned about the future of her job. What if she does end up getting fired? How will she provide for them?
Additionally, the girls seem to be taking the change hard. Particularly, Luna, normally bright, bubbly and out-going, now is distant and morose. What’s going on there?
Things go from bad to worse for the stressed family, as violent incidents occur both at school and at home. People are getting hurt, worse even. Carmen begins to suspect that something is seriously wrong with Luna.
When Izel opens up and shares her concerns about her sister with her Mom, Carmen can no longer ignore it. They need help. They need to free Luna from whatever has taken hold of her before it’s too late for them all.
I loved the way Gout told this story. The settings were distinct and I enjoyed getting to know the characters, particularly Carmen and her girls. It’s a very family-centered story and I was definitely along for their journey.
I felt the writing was descriptive in a way that helped me to picture everything perfectly in my mind. I would love to see this adapted to film. I think it could really translate well to that format.
The tension builds rather nicely and as you get closer to the end, it starts to get quite anxiety inducing. Things definitely snowball quickly once they get back to New York and actually, for me, that did throw the pace off a little.
The initial build-up, the family’s stay in Mexico, it takes its time. The stage is set in a slow-burn fashion, but then the conclusion almost feels too rushed in comparison.
With this being said, I still feel like the concept, character work and themes explored were all really well done. I loved how Gout included the historical and cultural aspects to the story. For me, that made it stand out from other Possession stories I have read.
Overall, I feel like this is a memorable and engaging story that I am proud to have displayed on my shelves. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a solid Possession story, or dark fiction involving heavy historical, or cultural, components.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was a highly anticipated release for me and it did not disappoint!